“There Goes the Neighborhood: A Short History of Nuclear Accidents”
Nuclear accidents have come in many shapes and forms, from dire to farcical, and have left indelible marks on science and society. Whether Chernobyl, the Radium Girls, or a clueless Boy Scout, find out why science goes wrong, and what happens when it does!
Anthony Neuberger has a degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of New Mexico, where he studied fission reactor design and did research at Sandia National Laboratories. He currently works with Prompt Gamma Neutron Activation Analysis. When he is not working, he spends as much time diving as possible, because water is better at stopping neutrons than air.
“I HAVE THE POWER … in foreign policy making!”
We nerds are oh so good and leaving the P-word at the door, but this month we’re taking Politics face-on … under the guidance of a professional, of course. Dr. Fletcher received her PhD from SUNY with a dissertation titled “Overseeing Politics, Authority, and Unilateral Presidential Power [and so on. Frankly, she had us at ‘overseeing’. And again at ‘unilateral’. And again….]”. She teaches at SDSU, examining the institutional aspects of law through developmental and historical lenses to help understand law as a political phenomenon. By reconceptualizing judges as legal actors institutionally bounded and historically contextualized she lends a new perspective on how legal regimes do not map political regimes, how legal time intersects with political time, and the dynamic relationship that exists between law and power. Dr. Fletcher is particularly interested in the way the mutual construction process constrains legal decision-making and how law defines and redefines the constitutional order with-in which the executive makes decisions in foreign affairs.
What does this mean for YOU? She’s going to use He-Man to make her case for the Executive having the ultimate power in foreign affairs.
And finally, BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!
(You asked for more on bees. You got it).
We closed the year with a show to remember!
1. THE SCIENCE OF SWEARING
Nearly everyone swears—in pain, anger, joy, or most relevantly, inebriation. Cognitive scientists have begun to look under the hood of profanity and the results are remarkable. How can stroke patients who are left otherwise speechless still swear fluently? Why do words like “zounds” or, more recently, “sucks” that were once taboo eventually lose their sting? What is it about Tourette Syndrome that can lead to the uncontrollable production of taboo words? In this talk, Dr. Ben Bergen showed how the cognitive science of profanity opens a new window onto how our brains process language. Also, there was a lot of swearing.
Dr. Bergen is a professor of Cognitive Science at UCSD. He wrote the book “What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves” … but don’t think less of him for it.
2. THE PRACTICE OF BEING COMFORTABLE WITH THE UNCOMFORTABLE
Every one of us is uncomfortable with something. What if you addressed what makes you uncomfortable, head on? On a consistent basis? This was a story of what happened.
San Diegan born and raised, Beck Bamberger graduated from UCLA in two years, then became the University of Pittsburgh’s youngest MBA graduate at 21. Beck started BAM Communications, a full service tech PR firm, while working as a TV host in San Diego. After winning an Emmy in 2011 for her TV work, she focused entirely on her entrepreneurial interests, growing BAM while starting Bite (San Diego’s top-rated and largest food tour company).
3. NO MICS: THE ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY OF OPERATIC SINGING
How do opera singers produce those incredible sounds? Why can’t pop singers keep up? Do you have to be rotund to be a great performer? As a year-end treat, two local opera singers explained and demonstrated their skills. Bravi!
Alvin Almazan is a tenor with San Diego Opera’s Opera Exposed young artist and education outreach program, and has also performed as a soloist and chorister. His most recent roles have been in La Traviata with Capitol Opera, La Boheme with Capitol Opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors, Lilith (premiering the role in its staged form) at the IDEAS Workshop at UCSD, and Queen of Carthage, an adaptation of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with San Diego City Opera. Caitlin Tuttle is a charming operatic soprano, and Alvin’s voice coach.
1. LANDING ON THE MOON: HOW HARD IS IT, REALLY?
In the 1960’s, two superpowers were engaged in a titanic battle to land the first human on the moon. Why did America get there first? Why was Neil Armstrong chosen to make that first step? In this talk, SPACE HISTORIAN Francis French took you through the colorful personalities and risky decisions that led up to the historic moment of the first moon landing. Together we all toasted Dick Gordon: Apollo 12 astronaut, friend of Francis, and handsome bastard.
Mr. French is a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society, and is the Educational Director of the San Diego Air and Space Museum. He’s authored a number of books and articles for Spaceflight Magazine, and he has even completed training at the US Space Academy whaaaaaaaaaaat!?
2. WHY ARE THERE STILL MONKEYS? AND OTHER STUPID CREATIONIST QUESTIONS
We looked at the pseudoscience of Creationism, and turned the willfully ignorant into the hilariously mocked. The evidence against Creationism via genetics, geology, the fossil record … the very universe itself, is overwhelming. Why don’t they get it??
Voted last year’s FAVORITE SPEAKER, PALEONTOLOGIST Trevor Valle returns to Nerd Nite San Diego once more! Trevor once got into a prolonged, intense Twitter war with Ke$ha and her fans, after he saw a photo of her defiling a fossil he spent years cleaning. He’s also the host of National Geographic’s “Mammoths Unearthed”, and he loves hockey more than you probably love anything.
1. Scott Farrell, Director and Head Instructor at San Diego’s Swords of Chivalry historical fencing program, part of the Chivalry Today Educational Program. He is co-author of the books “Martial Arts and Philosophy,” and “Batman, Superman and Philosophy,” and his articles on the ideals of chivalry have appeared in print and online publications all over the world – including the New York Times and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Blog!
Nerd Knight – Medieval Sword Fighting and The Philosophy of Chivalry
In this presentation, Scott introduced the growing field of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA), talked about what Game of Thrones gets right (a little bit) and wrong (a whole lot!) when it comes to scenes involving sword fighting, and explored how the ideals of chivalry can be discovered by attacking your friends with lethal weapons.
2. Although she occasionally wears heels to work, Cathy Chang has learned to embrace the lab coat, gloves, and mask that mark her as a Forensic Biology Criminalist at the Crime Lab. In addition to her duties in the Biology Unit, Cathy spends her free time at crime scenes, because, well, that’s also part of her job. With twelve years of experience at the Lab, there’s a lot yet left to learn. But Cathy’s happy to share what she knows, especially if beer is involved.
The County Crime Lab’s Contribution to the World of Nerdly Things
Is Forensic Science really performed in minutes by analysts who wear designer clothing under sexy blue lighting? This talk familiarized you with your County Crime Lab. You learned how things like lasers, lines, and right triangles help solve crimes. And we even solved the mystery of what that blue light really does.
3. The Battle of Cannabis and Science
Sam David is the founder of Coastal Analytical, a lab responsible for cannabis analysis. A chemist and materials scientist, Sam is a member of the International Association of Analytical Chemists, and is certified as a quality manager by the American Society for Quality.
Sam shared the hurdles laboratories face when working with schedule 1 substances, including the difficulty of procurement as well as the stigma using marijuana for medical treatment.
Confront your biases and indulge your curiosity.
After a hiatus in July for Nerd Nite Speed Dating and the National Geographic/Nerd Nite/Comic Con party, Nerd Nite San Diego #11 was back to our regular awesomeness at 32 North Brewing in Mira Mesa! As a special welcome-back, schmancy donuts were courtesy of the most generous badasses at Devil’s Dozen Donut Shop (and the San Diego Boss, thanks to her shameless solicitation of gifts from strangers). Beach-n-Bowls food truck was also there, offering local tastiness for those who wanted “real food” and not “just donuts and beer for dinner”.
Dr. William Nericcio brought us The Trials and Tribulations of a Humble (Strange!?) English Professor: Tex[t]-Mex, Mextasy, Eyegiene, and Technosexualities in Paris, Rome, and Beyond
Notorious Mexican-American literature professor, public intellectual, artist, and troublemaker, William Nericcio was born in the fabled “Streets of Laredo,” (or at Mercy Hospital, at any rate). For years he labored under the watchful (sinister?), eyes of siblings and priests at Catholic schools – contributing to internet rumors that he was “raised by nuns”. With an PhD in Comparative Literature from Cornell University, Nericcio now works as the Director of the Master of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences, and is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University.
Tuesday evening we learned about his last decade as a Professor of English and Cultural Studies, beginning with the circumstances surrounding his award-winning book Tex[t]-Mex: Seductive Hallucinations of the “Mexican” in America, followed by his traveling exhibition (and would-be TV pilot) Mextasy. We’ll end with a peek at his new work Eyegiene: Permutations of Subjectivity in the Televisual Age of Sex and Race, and his latest project Robotic Erotic Electric: Techosexual Metamorphoses in the 21st Century.
Alien Education: Keep Your Filthy Paws Off My Uranium
In this talk, we learned the seldom-told tale of the Futures Panel. Advised by the most awesome Dr. Frank Drake (Astrophysicist; Pioneer of SETI, Project Ozma, Voyager Satelite Program, and Extraterrestrial Communications; Member of the Futures Panel), Dr. Ed Strong brought us the story of a small group tasked by Congress to solve a life and death problem: the waste from America’s growing nuclear stockpiles cannot be simply buried and forgotten. Can humans solve the “Forever Problem” by designing a communications system effective across language, culture, intelligence … and all of time to come? And if we do, will the “aliens” listen?
Edward Strong has a Doctorate in Genetics and Genomics. He lives in San Diego while doing his level best to avoid the research lab he was trained to work in. Together with his startup partners, Edward is developing a consumer-focused genetic information service. He also works to help other businesses understand development opportunities associated with recreational genetic testing.
Nothing Butt Time (The Boss gets to name all untitled talks, according to her favorite phrases in the description. Future speakers be warned).
The night’s final talk may have inspired us all to trade in our chairs for dorky standing workstations: Dr. Jacqueline Kerr, Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at UCSD, showed us how to measure butt time, how to gtfo of our chairs, and why we’ll all feel much better for it.
July our regular event was suspended in lieu of two special events: Nerd Nite-Nat Geo-ComicCon and Nerd Nite Speed Dating!
For the 4th year in a row, NatGeo teamed up with Nerd Nite for a FREE special SDCC edition. This Nite took the audience on an intergalactic journey through Earth and to Mars to celebrate the space exploration. Mars vs. Earth – a classic battle! Saturday July 22, 2017 from 7-11pm at the rooftop terrace and pool at Hotel Solamar at 435 Sixth Avenue in the Gaslamp District. The Nite featured three funny-yet-smart presentations by JPL’s Bobak Ferdowsi (‘The Mohawk Guy’) and Mallory Lefland, former NASA astronaut Jerry M. Linenger, and Aaron Sagers (Editor-at-Large of Blastr.com). FREE FOOD and DRINKS!
The first-ever Nerd Nite Speed Dating event in San Diego was held at Nate’s Garden Grill near City Farmer’s Nursery. Tickets included a drink or a biscuit sundae *drool* and ten dates with eligible nerds looking for friendship and companionship. A few people got cold feet, but everyone who participated met someone interesting. We’ll be doing this again in the future!
“The Lighter Side of San Diego’s Past”
San Miguel, or as we know it, San Diego, was once the end of the earth to European explorers. Today, everyone wants to live here. June’s second presentation highlights many of the little-known facts about our region and how we went from a sleepy outpost pueblo … to the eighth-biggest city in the United States.
Matthew Schiff is the Marketing Director for the San Diego History Center, and author of an autobiography on Douglas Pardee (of Pardee Homes) as well as several articles for The Journal of San Diego History. He decided to wear horizontal stripes to his talk because fuck it! He’s engaged now and it no longer matters.
“CRISPR the Disrupter: A New Era in Biology”
We are in the midst of a revolution in molecular biology thanks to CRISPR technology. In just a few short years, a repurposed bacterial immunity system is rapidly becoming a standard laboratory tool. Scientists are using CRISPR across a wide variety of disciplines from medicine and agriculture to biofuels and industrial food production. This talk explored a little about what CRISPR is and where it came from, and a little about the applications and challenges moving forward. It is an exciting time to be a molecular biologist!
Nick Brideau has a PhD in genetics and studied fruit fly speciation as a graduate student. He then moved across the Atlantic to drink British ale (and study epigenetics) before recently landing in San Diego. He currently works at the Salk Institute and is focused on finding and developing new CRISPR systems.
“Fission! What is it Good for? Absolutely Something!”
Approximately 20% of America’s electricity comes from nuclear fission; however, most Americans are unaware of how nuclear power works, or even what a nuclear reactor looks like! How *do* nuclear reactors work, and what makes a “good” reactor?
Popular alumnerd Anthony Neuberger examined the future of nuclear fission for our planet.
Looking for your intellectual significant other? Tinder isn’t offering you a content-based approach? Nerd Nite speed dating is a rare and special event, like ball lightning!
Here’s the deal: $15 gets you a drink (or a bisciut sundae, if you take more after my own heart), and more three-minute dates than most of us have been on in our lives, all in one compact evening. If you’re the introverted type, don’t fret: I’ve made helpful and relevant slides to grease your conversations.
Suggestion: bring an item that relates to you (origami bow-tie; picture of your cat; favorite book; Luke Skywalker action figure; homemade treat.
This particular event will be hetero-normative (sorry), until other interests are expressed.
*** Tickets will be up soon; much like a Kickstarter submission, we need a certain amount of interest for this event to take place. If enough tickets for BOTH sexes do not sell, your tickets will be refunded. ***
“That’s Not a Fucking Dinosaur! Misconceptions about Paleontology”
Ross Gellar. Jurassic Park/World. Dinobots. Barney. The idiocy of creationist museums. Pop culture has this on again/off again love affair with the reality of paleontology, but refuses to take it out to dinner and really listen. Let’s bust one of the most basic misconceptions: what the fuck makes a dinosaur a dinosaur.
Trevor Valle is a field paleontologist and Cicerone Certified Beer Server. Previously a biologist, Trevor stumbled into a job as Assistant Lab Supervisor at the Page Museum (at the La Brea Tar Pits) and ended up becoming a paleontologist. In 2013, National Geographic sent him on expedition to Siberia for 6 weeks searching for frozen woolly mammoths for the documentary “Mammoths Unearthed”. He has presented 6 times at Nerd Nites in LA, ComicCon, and Orlando.
Our second speaker was UCSD postdoctoral fellow Heather Bell! Heather has a PhD in Neuroscience and specializes in bee communication.
“Hive Mind: What Bees Have to Say”
Honey bee colonies are considered by many researchers to be “superorganisms.” That is, even though they are made up of many autonomous individuals, each colony is capable of remarkably cohesive, sophisticated, and intelligent behavior – like foraging efficiently for food, waging war on neighbors, and finding new homes. What’s even more amazing is that they do this without any “leader” directing their behavior (the queen’s job is to lay eggs, not to give orders). Heather discussed some of the fascinating ways that bees have evolved to talk to each other and get things done!
“Bugs: Their Greatest Hits”
Rockabilly cicadas, calypso fleas, indie mayflies, and jam band ants. Insects inspire and create music. The ever-popular Michael Wall, entomological nerd, journeyed into the six-legged music scene in this final installment of the buggiest of trilogies: Sex, Drugs, & Rock-n-Roll!
April 2017 was Nerd Nite San Diego’s first event at 32 North Brewery in Miramar, and it was a crowd! Two food trucks – sausages and Belgian waffles – and plenty of excellent beer kept us going!
Our UX Prototyper Laura Nunnery wasn’t able to make it after accepting a job at Facebook, so our last-minute speaker-savior was Carlo Emami! Carlo has a Master’s in Public Policy and wrote his dissertation on workplace fatalities. He is an EMT and the owner of Safewest, where he teaches people how to not die at work.
Carlo’s talk was aptly titled “That Shit is Dangerous!” and it explored the fascinating and sometimes confounding world of hazard communication. Carlo showed us how to decode the mysterious world of hazcom! He’s also ridiculously good looking.
“How San Diego’s Genomics Industry is Changing the World (and your beer)” Genomics is the study of the genome, its functions and possible applications for healthcare, biotechnology and even social science. In this growing industry, San Diego is quickly becoming a world-wide hub for the technology behind the research, as well as its applications. We explored who the key players are within the industry, why this will affect you and your family (in a good way!), as well as how scientists are working on a way to make your beer even better!
Brian Steffy is a Senior Manager on the Professional Services team at Illumina, Inc., a San Diego-based tech company whose mission is to improve human health by unlocking the power of the genome. He has been in the biotech industry for over 20 years, studying the genetics behind Alzheimer’s disease, Diabetes, and the process of wound healing. Brian also has a passion for education, volunteering to help create curriculum with local school districts.
“Mothers, Microbes, and Merriment: The Art and Science of Next-gen Kombucha!” This talk explored the art, science, and health benefits of this delightful fermented beverage that dates back to 220 B.C. and is currently experiencing an explosion in popularity. We investigated the details of fermentation, what microbes are involved and how each contributes to the community, and the secret of using low alcohol kombucha to create a delicious alcoholic beverage.
Maxi Richmond received her PhD from the University of Connecticut in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Her studies have focused on the diversity, systematics, and community ecology of a range of organisms including microbes, beetles, and flies. She recently started applying her expertise to kombucha as the Senior Research Scientist at Boochcraft, a purveyor of high alcohol kombucha in Chula Vista.